It was more than two months since I uploaded my last letter. In between, my IT friend helped me to revamp my website to give it a more modern outlook, but I have yet to update my homepage and change other rather dated material. Nobody though seemed to have noticed the change, for I have had absolutely no feedback on the change from anyone or anywhere under the sun. For one split second, I questioned whether my website was worth the cyber space it had taken up.

Then a few days ago, I went to a friend’s private hideaway in Hung Hom after a late drinking session. I promptly called Su to report my whereabouts lest she might begin to get worried. That was the last time I saw my phone until a day later when my friend’s colleague retrieved it and I went over with Su to collect it. While I was away from my phone, a friend with whom I had a lunch appointment tried very hard to call me; and to add insults to injuries, I was late for the appointment. When I finally met up with him, he was about the leave and he told me that he had called me at least ten times that morning. The phone does appear to be part of an individual and at times running his life.

Still on the phone, about two weeks ago, I went to a printer shop to collect something I asked to be printed. A friend introduced me to this vendour and it was the first time I used him. He had sent me a message on WhatsApp with his shop address and instructions on how to get there, except that by the time I came out of the nearest MTR station, my phone had ran out of batteries. Luckily, I had written his phone number on a piece of paper which I had placed on my desk at home; and my plan was to call Su for the number so that I could call him. The next problem was to find a phone. I walked into a hotel and asked the front desk for assistance; and he promptly showed me a coin operated phone in the lobby. I put a $2 coin into the machine, but it won’t take. I went back to the front desk and asked another more senior looking staff member what I could do. Finally, I managed to call Su and the printer, but it was hard work and rather frustrating. In the good old days, one could walk into any shop and use its phone at the counter. Technology has certainly created unintended consequences many of which tend to cause the unfortunate and unsuspecting user inconvenience that he least needs.

Similarly, one can rant about the mighty WhatsApp which has effectively conditioned many people’s lives. Today, anyone without it risks being disconnected and alienated. When WhatsApp first came on the scene, some friends were reluctant to take it on for fear that they would lose some of their jealously guarded privacy. Now nearly everyone has surrendered unconditionally.

I notice many Facebook users have increasingly ranted on increasingly number of issues. First, they ranted about loss of privacy and that unwanted friends were getting access to their personal details; then they complained about friends of friends getting into their lives and more recently about people putting up posts that were not to their taste or liking, and about Facebook forcing them to use related applications. It was as if their personal freedom or freedom of choice had been eroded or compromised.

I suppose the ultimate question is: How free are we? In a nutshell, people in Hong Kong are freer than most elsewhere as long as they respect freedom itself and other people’s freedom. The corollary to this is that freedom comes with a premium. The problem is that many people cannot handle freedom, while others have systematically abused freedom, very often without realizing it. I have said elsewhere that, quoting the Bible, the truth will set you free; and I commend to all of you out there who can handle freedom.

I hope to talk to you later.


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